Day 82 - Sydney Bridge Climb

Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
Trip End Dec 25, 2007

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Monday, November 26, 2007

I'd been waiting for this day all week. We were going to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Our time was 12:50, so we planned to go to the state library first to get on the internet since it was free there and I desperately needed to post blogs and get some research for the 6 papers I had due between leaving Sydney and arriving in Shanghai. On the way we stopped at a bookstore called Dymocks to buy some Australian literature. I looked for a play called The Seventeenth Doll that I thought sounded really good but didn't find it, but did buy a copy of The Sentimental Bloke, the book Frank had read from on our very first day. I'm really excited to get into that. We had a minor panic then, because in the process of getting out my money and my card, I dropped our Bridge Climb voucher and we got about two blocks away before I realized it and we had to go back for it. Luckily they'd found it and thrown it away, and the woman behind the counter went through the garbage and found it for me. That was the exciting part; once we got to the library it was relatively uneventful; I got what I needed, sort of, but we didn't manage to leave in time to walk back to the bridge. So we called a taxi, again, but it worked out better actually because the cabbie knew right where to go and we would have wandered around looking for the bridge climb office.

We got in there a little late and rushed in to make our time slot, only to find out that they had us signed up for the previous day. They would still put us on a tour, but we would have to take the next available tour and it was at 1:15. We didn't learn until that moment that the tours, including briefing and safety training and everything, took four hours. Our ETL (the last call to be back on the ship) was 5. That must have been why they booked us every day at 12:50 - to keep the time consistent for the last day and have us (theoretically) make the ETL. We were afraid we wouldn't get a refund, especially since we couldn't remember what date we'd written on our forms. We'd known we wanted the last day because we were both on the AFP, but quite honestly we'd been in a hurry when we signed up and had sort of guessed at the date. We managed to convince ourselves that we'd put the right date; whether we got a refund was contingent on whose mistake it was since the Bridge Climb people wouldn't be giving one. We called the emergency duty phone number for the ship and talked to Leo, the executive director, who happened to be on duty, about our options and asked him what we should do. He had no idea and all he would say about the ETL was that we should make it. It's two hours before sailing time, and I had learned by this point that staff ETL is one hour before, so it was simply a matter of processing everyone's immigration and passports and everything. We asked him if we would be given a refund and no one from Shore Ex was available, so we would have to take a chance either way. The pay phone in the Bridge Climb office lobby was terrible, and kept cutting us off. I ended up having to use precious (and expensive) minutes from my AT&T phone card to make an international call that should have been a local call. At each port the duty phone holders would get a new sim card to make the number local and cheap. For them, anyway. A royal pain in the you-know-what if you ask me. Through the awful static and having to call back five different times, we finally agreed that it was up to us and that we should make the right choice. Well great.

We finally decided not to gamble on ETL, because we didn't know how long we'd really take once we got finished, changed, and out of the office, plus we had to walk back and didn't know exactly where it was, and with luck we probably still wouldn't have been back until after 6. We decided to go back to the ship, drop off our stuff, and have a leisurely afternoon in the city instead. We decided it would be better not to be rushed, if not worth the hundred and fifty bucks, and we both still had postcards to mail and loose ends to tie up in Sydney before we left anyway. We had a relaxing afternoon, got some lunch which we'd forgotten in our rush to get to the bridge on time, and got our postcards in the mail. Once back on the ship I ran into Kim, the Shore Ex manager, and she had our booking forms in her hand. Leo had given her our message and she'd taken a look, and lo and behold we'd written down the wrong day. So we wouldn't be getting our refund. I remember telling Liz earlier that day when we were walking around after we decided to bag the climb something along the lines of "Well, if we get our refund, great, and if we don't, we had a really great time climbing the bridge." So I can safely say that the bridge climb experience is fantastic and I highly recommend it. When you go take me with you so I can confirm this recommendation, all right?

We had a nice afternoon, got back on the ship, had dinner, and had a nice relaxing evening on the bow watching Sydney disappear into the distance. Apparently this is when everyone gets out to look at the city from the water - in the evening on the exit trip. I don't know why, but I just find it so much more exciting to be one of the first to see it, instead of one of the last. And quite honestly it's nice without all the people there. I also realized, though, that I'd been missing out on a pretty major social experience on board the Oceanic II; since I'd seen each city coming in and spent the whole week in it and didn't see the need to feel sad watching it disappear, I'd been having lazy dinners and then cracking down on the homework I'd been avoiding each time we left port while everybody else on the whole ship was on deck hanging out. Oh, well. Shanghai for sure, right?
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